Poetry Friday: Heinrich Heine


Mamacita says:  Heinrich Heine was the center of various controversies almost all of his adult life.  Born a Jew, he later converted to Catholicism: not for the right reasons, but for convenience’s sake. He has been quoted as such: “. . . (conversion) was ‘the ticket of admission into European culture.'”. and “As Henry IV said, ‘Paris is worth a mass’; I say, ‘Berlin is worth the sermon.'”  His writings covered many genres, but it is his poetry I like best.

Heine wallowed in his own sadness at times, and many of his poems are broken-hearted, frustrated, forbidden-love delights.  A lot of famous musicians of the time set his lyrics to music: Brahams, Strauss, Schumann, Mendelsohn. . . .

Poor Heine, a master of gallows humor. . . .  rejected and rebuffed, undersized, whiny, laughing his high-pitched falsetto laugh to hide his tears. . .   Heinrich Heine idolized Goethe, and sent the famous poet a copy of his first book of poems.  Goethe did not even acknowledge the book, least of all thank Heine.  Understanding a little of the poet himself almost always helps us understand the poem, because a poem will always have a little bit – or a lot – of the personality of the poet.

Good Fortune

Good Fortune is a giddy maid,

Fickle and restless as a fawn;

She smooths your hair, and then the jade

Kisses you quickly, and is gone.

But Madame Sorrow scorns all this;

She shows no eagerness for flitting,

But with a long and fervent kiss

Sits by your bed, and brings her knitting.

It’s one of my favorite poems. Some days, it’s almost a theme song.

Sarcastic to the end,  Heine’s last words were: God will forgive me. It’s his job.

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